Esquimalt rejects sewage plant rezoning, aims to block construction

Esquimalt councillors didn’t just turn down the Capital Regional District’s requested rezoning for a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point Monday, they rubbed the CRD’s nose in it.

 Not only did councillors unanimously reject height and buffer zone encroachments necessary to build the plant, they asked township staff to prepare a zoning amendment that would prohibit a sewage treatment plant from being built at McLoughlin.

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“We have faced Goliath before. We are doing it again,” Mayor Barb Desjardins told a chamber filled with about 50 people.

“For me the answer is: ‘No.’ One more time just so it is very clear, because the CRD has trouble accepting answers from this community. The answer is: ‘No,’ ” said Coun. Tim Morrison.

Councillors received a standing ovation when they officially rejected the CRD’s application.

The decisions leave the CRD in a tough spot said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who chairs the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee. “We’re caught between the requirement that we carry out sewage treatment — a requirement imposed by both the federal and provincial government — and the unwillingness of Esquimalt to host a treatment plant,” said Young.

Asked whether the CRD would ask the province to intervene, Young said that will be up to CRD directors who will discuss the decision this week.

Young conceded McLoughlin would be a tight fit for the plant but said: “Our engineers and advisers have suggested this is the best site we have. We’ve done enough looking and I really don’t think we’re going to find a better one.”

The CRD has been seeking to locate a $230-million sewage treatment plant at the site of a former oil tank farm at McLoughlin Point for more than a year. The site is zoned to allow wastewater treatment, but the CRD is seeking encroachments — a maximum of four per cent — into a 7.5-metre shoreline buffer and to increase the allowable height.

After public hearings in July, the municipality passed an alternative rezoning bylaw and began working with CRD staff to develop an amenity package to compensate for hosting the plant. Esquimalt was offered about $13 million in amenities, including oceanfront walkways, a million-dollar bike and path system on Lyall Street, public art, bike lanes, road improvements and $55,000 a year for at least five years.

But several councillors dismissed the suggestion that the amenities total $13 million.

Coun. Meagan Brame said Esquimalt shouldn’t be held ransom for mistakes make by the CRD. “They asked for these setbacks so they could fit the project into the site. Is it Esquimalt’s fault that the CRD bought a piece of property that does not suit its needs?”

An Esquimalt staff report noted that selection of any option other than approval means the province could be asked to intervene and there would be no guarantee the amenity package survives.

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